Kymlicka on Libertarianism: A Critical Response

Libertarian Papers 4 (2):31-52 (2012)
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Abstract

This essay examines sections relevant to libertarianism in Will Kymlicka’s Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (2nd ed.), making and explaining the following criticisms. Kymlicka’s “preface” misconstrues political philosophy’s progress, purpose, and its relation to libertarianism. In his “introduction”, his “project” mistakes libertarianism as “right-wing”, justice as compromise among “existing theories”, and equality as the “ultimate value.” His “a note on method” in effect takes as axioms, beyond philosophical examination, various alleged desiderata and the necessary moral role of the state. Moreover, his “ultimate test” being “our considered convictions” amounts to a conservative and illogical justificationism at odds with radical and coherent critical rationalism. Kymlicka’s chapter on “libertarianism” mistakes it as, inherently and unavoidably, free-marketist, anti-consequentialist, deontological, Nozickian, requiring “a foundational moral premiss, without objective content, unmaximisable, indistinguishable from license, equality-based, anti-anarchist, “self-defeating”, indefensibly “unfair”, impractically “philosophical”, and without influence. A different version of libertarianism easily withstands all Kymlicka’s antipathetic criticisms.

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J. C. Lester
London School of Economics

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References found in this work

Coercion.Robert Nozick - 1969 - In White Morgenbesser (ed.), Philosophy, Science, and Method: Essays in Honor of Ernest Nagel. St Martin's Press. pp. 440--72.
Contemporary Political Philosophy. An Introduction.Will Kymlicka - 1993 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 55 (1):180-181.
The Retreat to Commitment.Neil Cooper - 1965 - Philosophical Quarterly 15 (58):72-72.

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